Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Website: LINK

Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in! I should have known that when I said that last post was likely the last of post of 2012 that I was setting myself up for another post to have to be put up. This will be one of two posts, the second will be an editorial content on endorsements (in light of Cam Broten scoring the endorsement of MLA Doyle Vermette), though the second post will take a little while to get put up.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Ryan Meili released another campaign policy today, this time focusing on the similarities shared by those seeking to achieve social justice and those of faith. As such, Ryan is focusing on creating a plan to reach out to faith-based communities and use these similarities to foster areas of support.

As such, Ryan's plan calls for the creation of a Faith and Social Justice Commission, modelled off the federal NDP commission, to provide an open space to discuss faith and politics within the party; expanding on the guidance from this committee to develop an outreach strategy to engage faith groups, while listening to their concerns and striving towards finding common goals and egalitarian values shared by the NDP; and finally using these new connections and discussions to develop policy to bring back to the party.

The idea has generated some buzz, including high praise from former Premier Lorne Calvert, though I think there is a lot to be said in the quote from Calvert in the news release: "While the party is not and must not be shaped by religion, faith has inspired many of us to seek justice through political action." I think the intention is rather clear there, in that no one wants to see the NDP become guided by fundamentalist ideals of any religious group, and any discussion of faith and politics must not go too far.

Ultimately, it will all come down to the balance that the commission strikes between engaging faith based communities and the level of policy guiding that they ultimately achieve in the long term. I don't think anyone wants to see the party compromise on values that we've held for years in order to woo voters from the religious sphere; but I think we must also accept that religious voters who don't support us now will not support us until compromises occur.

It doesn't matter whether or not a person is a firm believer in social justice; if they vote based on a party's stance on abortion, it doesn't matter what you're planning to do with regards to social justice. We can have these discussions, but ultimately I think trying to woo single issue voters by offering more inclusion won't work unless the party compromises on the single issue.

The faith based communities who value social justice over other issues already stand with the NDP, most of the time, and they have a voice in the discussion. We don't have to win this group over, we just have to follow through with an agenda that includes social justice when the NDP is returned to power to keep them in our corner.

I fear I've editorialized this post more than I meant to, but I do think there are valid concerns to have over such a commission as this. There is nothing wrong with having a discussion, and attempting to do better to connect our values with those of faith-based groups throughout Saskatchewan; but at the same time, we must take heed to ensure that we are not crafting party policy that compromises on our own social values.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Campaign Update: General Recap

Financial Reports: LINK

Alright, a few things to talk about; this will likely be the last post before the New Year, barring any major announcements or things to come out...Or if I finally decide what to say on endorsements and produce an editorial content post regarding that. Either way, we'll see what the future brings in terms of posts prior to 2013.

Let's focus at the most recent financial reports; which deal with the month of November. For the second month is a row, Ryan Meili's campaign was the overall leader in terms of donations, taking in $18,002.53. Trent Wotherspoon came in second with $16,596.00. Cam Broten is in third with $12,659.90. And Erin Weir rounds out the pack with $8,079.00.

This also marks the first month that Ryan's campaign has spent more than it took in; though, he was well stationed from the month prior to do so without fear of running into overspending. As with the month before, however, Cam Broten is still stationed as the candidate with the most cash on hand heading into the New Year. 

It's with that in mind that I'd like to examine the fundraising tactics used by the four campaigns.

I'll start with Ryan, since his campaign has been the most 'aggressive' with fundraising (I assure you, aggressive is not used in the negative sense there). I say that because his campaign seems to have been the most engaged in promoting new fundraising approaches and putting out calls for donations and membership. Ryan's campaign saw donors over a certain amount receive a copy of Ryan's book, which I think was a good way of bringing in donations and also getting more information about Ryan out. Effectively, it was a good fundraising idea, and I think it certainly helped Ryan clinch the fundraising lead.

Trent's campaign has also been fairly active with their fundraising approach, most recently launching a 'themed' fundraising appeal. Trent's campaign has been calling for supporters to be ready for 2013 by pledging $20.13 to Trent's campaign. Last I checked, I believe the campaign was about two-thirds to their set target. It was another interesting approach, if only because it set the individual amount at a rather reasonable level that could appeal to numerous people regardless of personal financial situation. I think it was another good fundraising approach, in terms of accessibility and also affordability, and we'll see what kind of dividends it pays out.

Cam's campaign has also taken a very interesting approach to fundraising recently. As noted, Cam is currently the candidate most flushed with cash on hand, and that's put him in an interesting position. Instead of putting out a call for more donations to his campaign, Cam has instead called for supporters to donate money directly to the party. As we've talked about before, Cam's focus has been on getting the NDP's own house in order, and this appeal is only strengthening his claim to being the candidate most concerned with doing so. It's an interesting approach, though it could backfire should Cam's campaign require more financial support in the New Year which results in a direct appeal for fundraising; but given his current financial standing, I think that's likely not going to happen.

Finally, that brings us to Erin Weir. I have to say, and I could be wrong on this one (someone let me know if I am), but I haven't noticed any particularly active fundraising methods from Erin's campaign. I imagine that the campaign is taking the approach of putting forward policies that encourage people to donate, rather than actively soliciting donations; or may be focusing on securing institutional (union, business, etc) donations. I suppose Erin's campaign may also be focused on raising donations through campaign events directly, rather than through a general appeal online. And while a focus on policy to foster donation isn't a bad way to go about it, I think there is some room for growth and expansion here and I imagine we'll (or at least hope to) see a more concentrated and direct fundraising campaign in the New Year.

As for a direct analysis for what the numbers mean...Well, that might be better left to someone more qualified to look at that sort of thing, but I will throw in my own personal two cents. I'm hesitant to say that a two-month fundraising lead means that Ryan's campaign has the most momentum in the leadership race, if only because as noted his campaign has been the most aggressive when it comes to actively fundraising. It's one of those you get what you put into it sort of deals, and when you have a heavy focus on fundraising there's a good chance you're going to get a lot out of it.

Of course, I've discussed before how I don't think you can accurate predict momentum based on fundraising, so I might just be fitting my own bias towards dismissing fundraising as a leadership indicator...That's not to diminish the numbers being brought in by Ryan, or any of the other candidates, but more of a general belief that the cash game doesn't always show who is going to walk away as leader come March.

Campaign Update: Erin Weir

Erin's Website: LINK

In what has become a campaign staple for Erin Weir, he's taken a direct swing and issued a challenge to Brad Wall's government recently. Erin has called for the provincial government to stand up for the residents of Saskatchewan and be ready to address changes that the Federal Government is making to the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS).

He's called on the government to enhance the CPP as it is the best pension option for workers in the province.

Erin's also put forward a plan with regards to extending coverage of OAS, in the event that the Federal Government doesn't reverse course with regards to moving the OAS age requirement from 65 to 67. While Erin's first plan is to elect a federal NDP government in the next election that would reverse the change, he's also put forward a backup plan for the province to follow.

Erin's plan calls for the province to create its own benefit to cover those in the 65 and 66 age bracket until they reach the Federal OAS age requirement. Erin's also noted that such a plan could easily be paid for with the same cost that the SK Party's proposed 2% corporate tax reduction would cost. Erin's also advocated for a ten year residency requirement, much like the federal requirement, to prevent relocation to the province simply to collect the benefit.

It's an interesting concept, and one that I'm sure many on the verge of retirement are going to take a good listening to. And the fact that he's tied it to Wall's corporate tax cuts, in terms of value per cost, is going to put the Premier in an interesting position should someone in the media step up and pose the question to him. After all, it's hard to justify corporate tax cuts when there is a positive alternative that will affect workers and seniors in the province.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Website: LINK

As promised, here comes our look at Ryan Meili's recently released environmental policy. The full policy can be found at the link above, and we'll take as close a look as we can at the policies that it contains. In addition to this post, we'll also try to get the latest news from the other campaigns (especially with regards to Erin Weir's CPP and OAS proposal) up today as well.

So, let's get started.

The first plank of Ryan's plan stems around Energy Production. Ryan's plan call for an investment in safe and renewable energy sources, akin to the way the CCF/NDP electrified rural Saskatchewan in the 1950s. This should focus on wind, solar, bio-mass, while reducing coal power production. The plan also calls for a feed-in tariff to allow community energy co-ops to sell energy into the grid, aided by a new mandate for SaskPower.

The second plank revolves around Energy Efficiency. Ryan's plan calls for the establishment of a body independent from SaskPower to focus on energy conservation, and establishing and ensuring guidelines for the construction and retrofitting of buildings to be more energy efficient. Couple this with increased safety for low-income housing by providing free energy and safety audits (carbon monoxide detectors, fall assessments, etc.) that aims to save energy and health care dollars. Create an energy efficiency plan for industrial users and ensure that these industries are paying a fair share for the energy they use.

The third plank revolves around Climate Change. Ryan's plan calls for a strategic plan with reduction targets for 2020, 2030, and 2050. The providing of tax incentives to landowners for maintaining wetlands, woodlands, and grasslands when maintained as natural carbon sinks. Investment in public research to identify and promote sustainable and resilient farming methods and crops that will be required as the climate changes.

The fourth plank revolves around Protecting and Preserving the Natural Environment. Ryan's plan calls for safeguarding our water by enforcing current regulations and conducting bottom-up watershed based planning that is supported by provincial legislation and action. Retain and protect all native grassland on Crown lands, including community pastures. Work with Northern Communities, conservation organizations, the forest industry, and First Nations to improve stewardship of the forests that cover half of Saskatchewan. Protect farm land and pastures by providing incentives for farmers who want to produce for local markets, use fewer pesticides, or diversify food production in the province; and to ranchers who want to raise grass-fed animals with fewer antibiotics. Establish a Citizens Ecological Health Monitoring Agency to monitor impacts of human activity on the environment, composed of a scientific advisory council and citizens data-gathering and monitoring program. Conduct regional strategic planning to ensure the Ministry of the Environment has both the information and tools to regulate and our activity and protect the environment.

Looking at the policies, as is my want, I'd say the one that stands out the most is the Citizens' Ecological Health Monitoring Agency. It's an interesting concept to have an independent body outside of the government that is propped up through scientific inquiry, and citizen input, to act as a guiding hand to assist government environmental policy. It's an idea that's definitely in line with Ryan's call for evidence based politics, and hopefully it's something we'll hear more about in the upcoming debates.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some Notes on the Melfort Debate

Better late than never, I suppose; but with the holidays, I do tend to find a bit less time for blogging due to being back home with family. That being said, we'll take a look at the Melfort debate and we will have a few things to add later on about Ryan Meili's environmental policy and Erin Weir's latest call for the provincial government to address changes to the CPP.; not to mention the latest from the financial reports.

Like the debates that came before it, a lot of the same issues were touched on and the candidates stayed fairly close to the basic messages that they have been promoting; for Erin, that means hammering home the idea of selecting a leader who has a clear and detailed plan. For Ryan, that meant sticking to the broader theme of changing the conversation/way politics is done in the province. For Trent, that meant a focus on moving everyone in the province forward and reconnecting with communities across the province. For Cam, that meant a focus on the need to rebuild the party and a focus on shared futures.

Being in Melfort, there was a good opportunity to have a discussion about rural issues and all four candidates continued to expand on ideas that they have put forward previously; from a leader & caucus tour to the creation of field agents in rural areas.

One of the more interesting questions hinted back to the resource revenue sharing plan brought forward in the last election, asking if the candidates were supportive of such a plan. While everyone agreed that we need to work towards ending the inequality that exists within the province, not everyone truly answered the question. Trent and Ryan alluded to supporting the position, but with a caveat of having greater consultation. Erin spoke to how this policy was a disaster for the party in the last election, and didn't come out of being supportive of it, and instead focused on closing loopholes to raise revenue that way. Cam was the only candidate to fully stand by the policy, and explained quite well that the party needs to stand by its values, even when they come across as unpopular.

While that was an interesting moment in the debate, it seems to me that there was still no real knockout moment during the debate from any of the candidates. So again, we've gotten a good chance to hear all of the candidates present the policies that they have been working on since the campaign started; and I still feel that most of them are doing well in terms of getting those policies across, though everyone can always benefit of ensuring they stay within time limits and present answers concisely.

I'm toying with the idea of some 'New Years Resolutions' the candidates camps should make with regard to the next debates, and I think we'll go ahead a do it here in this post.

We'll start with Cam Broten. I think the resolution from this camp needs to be to retire the 'Alphabetical Seating' remark when Cam poses questions to Ryan. It's been used in several debates already, and personally, I think it doesn't come across very well in the grand scope of things.

For Erin Weir, I think his campaign resolution should be to focus on the future, as opposed to his past. I've mentioned before that I think Erin's raised his profile since the race began, and there's less need to define his background, and instead should keep focus on the policies that he's put forward since the race began. I think there's more to be said by keeping to the big picture that minimizes a focus on self, and it would be a good chance to highlight a lot of sound policies instead.

For Trent Wotherspoon, I think his campaign resolution should be to focus on keeping his answers concise. Trent is consistently a candidate whose answers tend to run a little longer than the time allotted, which is a credit to his passion for the issues, but once the microphone is cut off we tend to lose the last few policy points or ideas. This also means that it denies Trent the chance to provide a final 'sound byte' that helps the answer really hit home.

For Ryan Meili, I think his campaign resolution should be to minimize anecdotes and focus on policy. Ryan spends a lot of time talking about his background and past experiences, which leaves his ability to talk about campaign policies as slightly stunted. Ryan was one of the candidates a few of the others focused on for having less fleshed out policy when entering the race, and now that his campaign has put out several policy releases, it's time to ensure that those planks are being talked about fully and developed more as the race goes on.

I think that more or less sums up my thoughts from the Melfort debate; and should the La Ronge debate make its way online, we'll give it a talk since I think it will highlight some really good northern issues worth talking about. As mentioned above, we'll also talk shortly about the recent Ryan Environmental release, Erin's call for CPP enhancement, and the most recently financial reports in the coming days.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Quick Federal Note

I came up with this when chatting with a friend about the F-35, so I figured I'd actually throw it together and get it out there into the public sphere.

Might not be the greatest at Photoshop, but I think it gets the point across.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Campaign Update: Latest News

A quick overview with regards to the last few major news headlines to come from the leadership campaign; while I'd usually do this in individual posts, I think there's not quite enough to justify four individual posts so we'll just do one major post covering all of the campaigns.

We'll start with Ryan Meili. Ryan released his education and childcare platform last week, which we talked about HERE, and also picked up an endorsement from the UFCW.

Erin Weir picked up an endorsement from the IBEW, and has also spent some time directly challenging Premier Wall to come forward and talk about what the federal approval of the Nexen takeover means for Saskatchewan. LINK

Trent Wotherspoon hosted a sold-out campaign event in Regina this weekend, and also picked up an endorsement Iron Workers 711.

Cam Broten also scored an endorsement from fellow NDP caucus member Cathy Sproule, member for Saskatoon-Nutana.

A lot of endorsements have been the bulk of the news coming out of the campaigns in the last few weeks, and I'm wary to mention the bulk of them for fear of missing one, so I'll just stick with the ones that have been listed above. I've been thinking of doing an editorial reflecting on endorsements, and I do plan on doing one, but that's to come in the future.

Also, as we're looking ahead, we'll see some reflections on the remaining debates that have occurred since we last talked about the one in Swift Current.

Hopefully, this more or less covers the big ticket items that have occurred as we approach the lull that will occur over the holiday season with the leadership race. If I've missed anything that really should be talked about, please let me know in the comments.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Education Platform: LINK
Ryan's Early Childhood Platform: LINK

With the holiday season approaching, time for blogging tends to slow down a little bit though I will do my best to continue to post as regularly as I can.

As such, I'm a bit behind at examining Ryan Meili's recently released Education platform plank. In addition to focusing on education in terms of how the province interacts with schools, Ryan's policy as also included 'downstream' measures to enhance early childhood at the same time. So, let's start with the early childhood policies and then take a look at the education plan.

The focus of Ryan's early childhood revolves around  an integrated approach in dealing with childcare and early education programs; coupled with a focus on providing the resources needed by parents within the province.

Ryan's plan calls for supporting parents through learning classes and mentorship, with a focus on young parents and vulnerable populations and a re-establishment of the Teen and Young Parent Program in Saskatoon and across the province; improve maternity leave pay to the level seen in Quebec and other OECD countries and expand those benefits across the parental leave period; earmarking at least two months leave for fathers.

Ryan's plan for childcare calls for bringing in experts to examine the creation of a made-in-Saskatchewan "Quebec Model" of childcare; working to bring together childcare, child education, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten to ensure the best outcome for children; work with existing facilities and childcare co-ops to to develop capacity for expansion; ensure school boards have the resources to provide before and after school services; support training opportunities to increase the number of childcare workers and educators in the province.

Ryan's plan for working within the education model calls for the offering of half day and full day kindergarten options for all four year olds; provide funding for integrated age appropriate learn-through-play pre-kindergarten content for children 2 and up in childcare; ensure training for childcare employees provides includes a focus on education not just supervision.

We'll take a moment to talk about those ideas before we look at the remaining education planks. Of the policies brought forward, I think the one that stands out the most is the re-tooling of training to ensure that education is focused on as well as supervision. There is a lot to be said in making sure that children are being given a chance to learn prior to entering into the education system, and I think its certainly worth talking about addressing ways to provide those opportunities.

So, let's take a look at the education planks laid out by Ryan's campaign.

Ryan's plan for the K - 12 system calls for an expansion on the community school model and introduce community supports; allow local communities to set their own mill rates to ensure stable funding; partner with the Federal Government to address the gap in funding to Aboriginal Schools; involve rural communities in finding solutions that allow communities to address closing K - 6 schools; introduce the Roots of Empathy program into the curriculum to ensure students develop empathy, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution skills.

Ryan's plan for the post secondary education system calls for the establishment of a legacy fund from resource revenues to fund accessible and high quality post-secondary education; reverse underfunding of universities and reinforce the principle of public education as a public good; reinstate the tuition freeze and work towards lowing tuition fees as finances allow; increase the amount and number of entry and continuing education scholarships; make student loans simpler and more accessible with a larger amount being forgivable; create a student loan system that is more response to those who pursue their education part time.

Out of those planks, I think the appeal to the Roots of Empathy program is the one that stands out the most. Any part of real education reform means changing the approach to not just what we teach, but also how we teach the next generation. I think it's an interesting concept, and should stand as a good first step in addressing how we need to change the education system in the years to come.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Word on the Fourth (Swift Current) Debate

Debate Video: LINK

As always, those interested in watching the debate in full can follow the link at the top of the page.

With the fourth debate come and gone, and indeed the fifth debate as well (which will be talked about shortly), I think we can talk a bit about what was brought up. I've given it some thought, and I think we're going to abandon the individual candidate profiles for awhile.

I say so, because as of this debate, I can't really see any room for improvement for any of the candidates. I think they've all hit their strides and the future debates will reflect that; of course, I may change my tune after watching the Melfort debate, but we'll wait and see what happens. Effectively, I won't bring them back unless there's something specific I think we need to talk about with how the candidates are presenting themselves and their policies on an individual level; I think there's some collective things to discuss, and those will be addressed in this post.

I was looking forward to the Swift Current debate; if only because it's taking place in the Premier's backyard and those kinds of events are always interesting. For the most part, Brad Wall himself was left out of a good chunk of the debate; what was surprising was the way many on stage avoided specifically mentioning the Premier by name...

It was an almost Beetlejuice-ian (sometimes you have to create words, see Shakespeare) experience, that one must wonder if they thought saying his name three times would summon him into the venue. I don't know whether it's out of courtesy that the candidates avoid specifically mentioning Wall, but it is an interesting contrast to see many of the candidates simply refer to 'this government', 'the current government', or 'the Premier'.

Perhaps it has a little to do with trying to avoid the pratfall of personally taking on Wall's persona, but I think when we discuss his record and his government's record, we can be more specific. I say this, because I've heard some criticism that the candidates haven't said much yet about how they would run an election against Wall and how they would personally deal with Wall as Leader of the Opposition; and I think there is room for him to at least be mentioned by name so we can start to see some of the underpinnings of that dynamic moving forward.

So, I think there's room for the candidates to grow by being more specific when they single out things that this government has done. Whether that's by singling out Premier Wall, or the actions of a specific Minister, is something that we need to see to get a sense of which candidate is ready to stand toe-to-toe with the Wall Government.

As for the content of the debate, there were a lot of issues that had previously come up in the prior debates, and I think all the candidates did a good job with staying on topic and addressing the issues. Since we've heard a lot from the candidates on issues such as revenue growth, health care, and housing; I think I'm going to spend a bit of time looking at some of the less common issues.

In a chance to flex a bit of intra-provincial muscle, a question regarding free trade agreements came up. I think this was a good question for pushing some of the comfort zones of the candidates, as I think its one of those that doesn't come up often during a provincial debate. I thought all the candidates handled the question fairly well, and did a good job at calling for increased transparency and openness from all levels of government when these deals are discussed.

It was a solid question, and if anything, highlights the fine collection of knowledgeable candidates that we have running (and for undecided members, further increases questions of doubt and uncertainty over which candidate to support).

I felt that the candidate to candidate question period went rather smoothly; and was quite cordial; I didn't see any exasperated looks or glances, and there wasn't any undertones of being overly aggressive; which is good to see at this point. At the same time, however, I thought there were a lot of questions that weren't the general 'soft lob' ones that we've seen at some of the debates. There was a real debate on policy and questions of substance, and I hope that we can see more of these questions as the race continues.

Yet again, I think, that you can't really declare a winner in this debate. It's hard to say someone stood ahead of the others, when at one point or another, everyone is nodding in agreement to something someone else has just said. And judging that this is now the fourth debate where we can't call a TKO for one candidate or another, I think it's likely going to be the pattern that we'll see in all of the debates...With the possible exception being the final debate during the convention.

I think all the candidates still have a lot of room for growth in helping to distinguish themselves from one another, and doing so in a respectful way, and once we see development on that front we might be able to declare a winner to one of these debates.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

 Ryan's AMA: LINK

An analysis of the Swift Current debate will be coming in the next few days, now that the video has been posted online, but for now we'll focus on what we have information for already.

Ryan Meili took to Reddit today (which is, for those who don't know, a popular 'social news' site spurred on by user generated content and links) to take part in an Ask Me Anything session. The AMA has become a tool that some politicians have started to embrace, most notably American President Barack Obama. Ryan's campaign has billed him as the 'first Saskatchewan politician to do an AMA'; which, I do believe to true in terms of formatting.

One can make the case that Erin Weir's digital town hall produced the same kind of result; a forum where people could ask whatever they wanted directly to the candidate, though some detractors will say that since it was done through Twitter and Facebook it wasn't a proper AMA...Though, I suppose that might be splitting hairs.

In any case, it doesn't matter which candidate was the first to lay claim to any of these new mediums; rather, it's much more important that candidates are using them at all. While there is still a lot to be said for getting out and meeting with members face-to-face (and this will always be one of the most important parts of politics), online forums are definitely allowing candidates to reach people who might not necessarily go to one of the debates or to a campaign event.

It's a step in the right direction, I suppose is how we can slim down that. Now, I've included the link at the top of the page that can take you directly to Reddit to read the questions and answers. However, I'll also post them here, since I'm sure we'll call back to them at some point in the future.

As always, questions are BOLDED while answers remain in normal type. Also, I posed one question during the AMA and have since forwarded that question to every candidate; rather than leave Ryan's response to that question out, I will include it both here and when we talk about the responses from the other candidates as well. My question will be ITALICIZED.

Two last things; questions and answers have not been edited other than for formatting. I am only including Ryan's responses to the questions posed, and not including any responses that came from any of the other participants UNLESS the response was a follow-up question or rebuttal; general statements and so forth are excluded here, but can be found at the link provided.


Thanks for doing this. Going from being a family physician to a politician is a pretty significant shift. How do you think your experience as a physician will help you in your role as a politician?

I’ve had the good fortune to work as a physician in rural Mozambique, the Philippines, all over rural Saskatchewan, including in Northern communities, and most recently in the inner city at West Side Community Clinic.

Working as a physician gives me insight into the health and social challenges faced by individuals in the communities I serve. I’ve tended to work more with people who face challenges related to poverty and other elements of social exclusion. This gives me some unique insight into the way that political decisions play out in the lives of individuals.

I enjoy working as a physician a great deal. However, it’s also quite frustrating, as the work I can do is often treating the symptoms, not the causes. Recognizing that health care is quite far down the list of determinants of health is what has driven me to become involved in politics to try to make more meaningful, upstream change.

Hi, and thanks for doing this for us today Ryan. I'm not terribly informed on a lot of Saskatchewan issues, but I did follow and was extremely disappointed by Premier Wall on the Potash Corp. sale issue. What did you think of the federal government's decision to block the sale of Potash Corp?

In the October 22nd edition of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix it was reported that "Premier Brad Wall urged the federal government Thursday to reject BHP Billiton Ltd.'s $38.6-billion US hostile takeover attempt of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. to protect Canada's strategic concerns." This takeover has been estimated to lose Saskatchewan anywhere from 2 to 5.7 billion dollars in resource revenues over the next 10 years.

As a New Democrat it always pains me a little to praise the actions of a conservative politician. But to not do so is to miss an important opportunity because this represents a significant departure.

For the first time in a very long time we see a conservative party appearing to act as though government matters. The mantra has long been that governments must be run like businesses. While that may not be the most appropriate model (citizens are not customers after all), neither has it been followed. Conservative governments, including that of Mr Wall, have tended to indiscriminately decrease revenue and increase spending. What business would intentionally decrease its income while increasing its costs?
For the government to finally recognize that it needs to make money, that the needs of the citizens of Saskatchewan cannot be met by handing over all control of and profit from public resources to private interests, is a rare but important decision..

The natural reaction for the opposition when the government makes a wise choice is to cry "Too Little! Too Late. While these criticisms are fair, this is not the time for them. This is the time to take careful note of the meaning of this departure, say "Good job Brad", then use this example to pester him incessantly to do the right thing in other areas. We face serious challenges in this province: economic, environmental, and social. They can only be met by a government willing to take the necessary actions to secure and manage the resources necessary to do so. Until we have a new premier, which of course will be in the next general election, we have to recognize when this one does the right thing and use those examples to push him to do it more often.

I've heard a lot about the social determinants of health in relation to your campaign. Can you explain how you think the SDOH relate to politics in general, and why it is important?

Re-organzing our political system to focus on health, and using the understanding that the SDOH are the primary factors that influence health, gives us a way to move closer to (to steal from Canadian Doctors for Medicare) a politics that is "evidence-based, values-driven". It also offers us a means to measure whether we're being successful in reaching our political goals. This TEDx video will give you some deeper content on that answer as, of course, would A Healthy Society.

Hey Ryan, I really enjoyed your blog post today. As someone who's also from a small town, I was wondering if you could elaborate on how, as leader, you would reverse the NDP's fortunes in rural Saskatchewan? 

Thanks. The blog post talked about a visit to my home town of Coderre, one of many communities that has shrunk considerably in recent decades. It was great to get out and listen to my neighbours, and I think that's at the root of what we need to do do revive the NDP in rural Saskatchewan. That means going beyond one-off tours to developing a strategy for outreach that includes 1) field agents - based on the model used by the Wheat Pool - that are supported by 3 or 4 rural constituencies to do outreach through staff rooms at schools, on coffee row, anywhere people gather where politics can be discussed and 2) developing policies, and a vehicle for those policies (eg a Rural Issues Caucus within the party) that will allow us to reflect what we hear in rural Saskatchewan and send a clear message that we actually care and want to take action to improve life everywhere in the province, not just in the cities.

I'm looking forward to this; something I've been kicking around in my mind for awhile (and I will be posing this to the other candidates when I get chance) is the new low we seem to be reaching within the political sphere. You've talked a lot about 'changing the conversation' as part of your political mantra, and I'm curious as to how you would achieve that.

Would you support legislation that would prevent 'negative' ads from being ran by either party? Would you support legislation, that applied heavy consequences, that would make lying to or misleading the public more costly than it currently is to politicians? 

Is there a legislative method that we can use to not only keep politics more honest, but also ensure that politicians who do mislead the public face real consequences for their actions? Or, do you favour a non-legislative approach, and if so, what would that be?

Scott, this is very close to my heart. I really feel that changing the conversation means not only redirecting our political decision-making toward the goal of greater wellbeing, but also changing how we treat each other (within our own party and those across the floor). I haven't thought deeply about legislation as a barrier to negative politics, but it's an idea worth considering. The trick would be to set up (or tap into the existing) the arms length body that could make a clear judgment on whether the advertising was truthful, and establish clear criteria for what is considered too negative. Before we get to legislation, the first step is modelling better behaviour. I'm trying to do that in this race, keeping on the best of possible terms w my fellow candidates. I'm also committed to leading an NDP that leads by example, demonstrating first and foremost our commitment to decency and respect. I think that is what people want to see – thus there's some strategic merit – but more so, it's the right way to go.

*This add-on was added later, by Ryan, and its due time I put it here as well.

In follow-up, and after careful consideration and some discussion with friends in the legal profession, I edited my above response. While the need for a more positive politics is clear, and the temptation to use legislation to get there a real one, the risk of crossing the line into censorship is too great. The existing laws around defamatory libel should be enough to limit actual falsehoods. The onus for positive politics should rest first with those who practice the art, and legal recourse reserved for extreme circumstances.
Thanks again for the question, and I hope you understand the sober second thought on this one.

Ryan, Saskatchewan is scarred by racism. It is a problem the pervades much of the discourse in this province. How do you propose we work to heal the wounds of aboriginal people? What can you do as leader to help bring people (aboriginal, new immigrants, settler descendents) to understand and appreciate each other?

Thank you for this question. I work and live in an inner-city community. Most of my neighbours and patients are First Nations. Their current experiences of racism, combined with generations of marginalization and abuse (residential schools, reserve system, 60s scoop etc.), contribute greatly to worse health outcomes and worse life experiences.

As a province we need to recognize that as long as we're divided we can't truly progress. I would look to include, in all policy considerations, ways in which we can promote unity, heal existing racial divides, and generally work to address existing and potential inequities.

Glad to see you on here. You've been a vocal critic of the recent cuts to refugee health services. Why do you think this is such an important issue? Is there something that could be done at the provincial level to help fill in the gap for SK refugees?

The decision to cut refugee health care was very short-sighted. It's less fair and more expensive, and one can only think it was designed to flare up division among Canadians. I would far rather see us clamouring for greater coverage for all, rather than less coverage for the most vulnerable. Below are a couple of relevant blog posts that go into more detail.

Hi Ryan. I have a few questions, some, all, or none of which you may choose to address. Thanks.

New Democrats are sometimes stereotyped as starry-eyed idealists with no appreciation for the practical. The historical evidence is to the contrary. In Saskatchewan, it was CCF/NDP governments that created the first civilian air ambulance service in the world; brought electricity to farms that, as late as 1950, were lit by coal oil lamp; built a road system that, at the time, was studied as a model by engineers from around the world; etc. These are things you can see, touch, and use. Why don't New Democrats talk more about our practical accomplishments?

Dwain Lingenfelter was the first NDP leader who did not become premier. Why? What lessons do you take from this failure?

You've spoken and written about the need for government to embrace 'evidence-based policy.' Setting aside the fact that evidence is often ambiguous, contested, and contradictory, even the best/clearest evidence is descriptive not prescriptive. I prefer to think of evidence like a GPS: it can provide you with a route and keep you on track, but it can't tell you where you want to go. In politics, only values can provide a destination. What are your values? How do they differ from Brad Wall's?

The Wall government has undertaken to review and 'reform' Saskatchewan labour legislation. It has been suggested that the government may abandon the Rand formula and the roughly 60 years of relatively peaceful, predictable labour relations built upon it. What is your position on the issue? What are your larger views regarding the role of unions in society?

You've worked as a rural relief physician. Given your experiences in smaller communities, how would you balance the desire of rural residents to maintain their way of life against the increasing cost of providing services and maintaining infrastructure in sparsely populated areas.

Broadway Cafe or Park Cafe?
6 Qs = short answers 1. I classify myself as a practical idealist. We need to have a vision of the ideal, we need to be able to plan the steps to get there. Highlighting the practical successes of the past, and being clear about both the what and the why of future successes is key. 
2. There are a # of reasons. One clear one is the party chose, under Mr L's leadership, to go personally negative against a popular premier. This backfired badly. New Democrats are better served by an approach that is consistent with the values we represent. 
3. See prev answer. Evidence-based, values driven. Hence the mix of re-framing the db8 toward greater wellbeing, then using the best evidence available to guide our decisions. 
4. I'll direct you to the website for a longer answer and video on my thoughts on labour policy. Simply put, the worker's movement is key not only for our political success or the well-being of unionized workers, but for greater equality and better health outcomes for all. 
5. Tough challenge, using modern technology, greater sope-of-practice for non-physician providers, and over the long-term training more physicians from (and in ) rural areas are key elements. 
6.Park Café, no Q. It's a block away, the owners are good friends and supporters, and the food is great. I do enjoy a semi-regular breakfast with Roy Romanow at the Bway café, however, so it has a place in my heart as well.
You are back at your practice and off to go get a flu-shot for your patient when you hear a loud bang in the lobby. Once you investigate, you discover that a man with outdated fashion sense has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Upon closer inspection, you recognize him as Tommy Douglas! He unknowingly opened a time vortex as he was writing his mouseland speech and has begun freaking out at all the advanced technology in your lab like computers and the internet. Once he calms down, you realize you only have a short period of time before Mr. Douglas has to return to his own time period to avoid a paradox.
You are given the opportunity to give Mr. Douglas three pieces of advice regarding healthcare so that he may have that knowledge when he returns to parliament. What advice do you give him?

Love it! 1) Don't let this unexpected interaction with the future disrupt the mouseland speech, it's gold. 2) Don't cave on fee-for-service, salaried or mixed payment is essential to allow docs to move beyond assembly line care to real patient-centred practice. 3) Don't, by any means, lose track of the fact that our goal is greater health, not better health care. Get to Phase II of Medicare as quickly as you can!

The film tax credit program was recently gutted under the Brad Wall government and SCN was sold off. What plans would you have for the movie and TV industry if you were to become leader?

I think this was a decision that really reflected the SK Party's excess reliance on resources as the sole opportunities for economic development. I see arts and culture, including the film industry, as key elements of a more diversified, boom-and-bust resistant economy and work work with film, TV, and other cultural industries to develop a new approach that would help these industries, and the talented people working in them, to thrive.

I have several questions:
1)You've been tossing around ideas like a Bank of Sask and SaskPharma. How do you plan to implement,pay and run them?
2) Yes or No, will you run in next general election, if you do win?
3)You seem to be spending most your time promoting your book. Shouldn't you be concentrating on promoting the NDP?
4) How does the social determinants of health meme differ from NDP core values held for decades?
5) Positive politics can also be used to limit and suppress debate by making criticism and differences taboo. Do you think that your campaign has,or will, reach this extreme end in order to promote your candidacy?

Hi there,

1) There are many sources of provincial revenue, from fine-tuning our progressive taxation system, to retooling royalty structures in key resource industries, to working to expand economic growth in key sectors outside these: eg co-ops, Community Economic Development, the film industry, renewable energy. The great thing about SKPharm and the Bank of SK is that they have the potential to increase provincial revenues substantially once established.

2) Yes, i'll run if i win. Funny question that.

3) The book highlights my political philosophy and the ideas of the SDOH, it also gives insight into my reasons for running and gives deeper perspective into the shift in political discourse that the idea of a healthy society offers. In that (as you say in Q 4) this is consistent w the values of the NDP, that shouldn't be seen as in competition. The book is a key element of my campaign, a great way to share ideas more deeply. It also will be, I hope, a part of a greater shift in political discourse not just here in SK or for the provincial NDP, but across the country and beyond. The response so far suggests that will be the case. In any case, I see it as deeply complimentary to the goals of this campaign and our party, not a source of competition.

4) It more clearly expresses these values in a way that is accessible, and connects with a drive (better health for themselves, their family, their neighbours) that extends across political lines and can increase our electoral success.

 5) I've never shied away from arguing about ideas. It is important to highlight differences and to let the best ideas emerge through that process. Nit-picking small details on policies during a leadership gets away from the point of a broader exchange of ideas. Trolling, personal attacks, or other forms of online or in-person goonery add nothing whatsoever to the political discourse.

I liked your comments in this video about how labor rights are being slowly rolled back.
The Sask Party seems to be taking a slow and steady approach to reducing worker rights. How will you counter this strategy of patiently chipping away at unions, and more importantly, how will you make this resonate with Saskatchewan voters - many of whom are not union members?

Thanks. I like the analogy to the fight for Medicare. The more we focus on defending what we have, the more it will be eroded. We need to expand and improve our universal coverage, getting people excited about the next steps rather than concentrating on the past. The same is true for the worker's movement. We need to propose the next wins that will excite people in and outside of the labour movement. These include ideas like pay equity, access to quality, affordable child care, a minimum wage that's indexed to be a living wage, or the expansion of occupational health and safety and labour standards to better cover non-union workers. I'm sure there are other win we could come up with together, and that's why I feel we need real consultation with the workers and public about current struggles and the available opportunities. 

We have four strong candidates, why are you the best one of the job?

I agree we have 4 great candidates, and each will have an argument (experience in the leg, experience outside the leg, professional experience, personal strengths) for why they should be chosen.

Ultimately members will have to choose, and I really hope they do so based on who they feel would best represent the party and its vision, that they go with their hearts on who they would trust the most, on who appeals to them the most. I hope that because it means our party will stay more true to its values, but also because voters outside the party will be looking for the same thing.

I do think there is a distinct difference in my approach, that with the other three you will get good politics, but politics that aren't much different than what we've seen before. With my candidacy there is a chance for a fundamental shift in approach (again see ). Again, of course, it will be the wisdom of the members that decides who will best represent the party in this rebuilding and growing phase.

I noticed in your Wikipedia article that you advocate that health care focuses too much on the current problem and too little on the issues that lead to the problem. 

Would you have any plans that you'd like to put in place to help inform the populace on what can be done to avoid issues in the future, such as school programs?

Do you think that living an active/healthy lifestyle could be a big money saver for hospitals and government healthcare, or could it lead to just as many issues but of a different variety such as bone fractures/injured muscles?

Thanks for this question. What I'm proposing is that we go beyond health care, or even what we tend to think of as prevention, to address the real determinants of health: income and its distribution, education, employment, housing, nutrition, the wider environment etc. Elements of that would involve school programs, but we're really talking about policies that seek to enhance equality and provide greater opportunity for people to thrive. As for exercise, it's an important element of good health, and while there are certainly health problems related to overuse or over-activity, they certainly don't pose nearly the threat to wellbeing or to health costs as sedentary lifestyles and poor diets.

With the (not so new) news that Canada is one of the world’s worst polluters—what is your plan for Saskatchewan that doesn’t involve green-washing?

And Saskatchewan w the highest GHG output per capita. While we have challenges related to our climate that make us use more energy, we could do so much better. I would focus on
1) moving away from coal, and not toward nuclear generation of power.
2) moving to renewable sources of energy: solar, wind, biomass, run-of-the-river hydro. We have among the best resources available to do this in the country, we should be early adopters and leaders, not laggards.
3) government – as representatives of the people and stewards of the land – playing a central role in setting and enforcing environmental standards.

Given an ultimatum, would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

It's about time I got asked this question of immense importance to SK politics. I'd go w horse-sized duck. I hope to win this leadership race, and then work closely with my fellow candidates as a team. The same goes for horse-sized duck. How useful would it be, once beaten and tamed, as an ally in the fight for social justice!!!

1) How does it feel being the oldest this time around? But, seemingly most in touch with the youth?..
2) How will you effectively communicate evidence based politics, something seriously lacking at all levels of government, once becoming leader? 

1) It is funny to be the old guy this time (I'm 37). Last time i was 34 and the frequent comment was that i was too young, now all the other candidates are as young or younger than i was then. I don't think chronological age matters too much, there are differing levels of youthfulness and maturity in each of us. I do think, however, that it's a great thing that we're guaranteed a generational change in this race.

2) The analogy of evidence-based medicine is a helpful starting point, and one people seem to relate to. see for more
Using examples of evidence-based policy development (such as the health disparity report work referenced in this article will also help.

And, like any new concept that needs time to work it's way into the public discourse, rinse and repeat. The more we talk about this, the more people will come to expect it. I do believe this is an idea whose time has come, the appetite is there for a more rational approach, but it needs champions.

I connect deeply with the land and natural ecosystems within SK. Duck Mountain Provincial Park is one of my favorite places. Where do you like to go to connect to the land and forget human stress?

Lots of places.
1) The farm, 45 mi SW of MJ, wide open spaces, rolling hills.
2) Ile a-la-Crosse, about 5h N of Saskatoon. Huge beautiful lakes to paddle in the summer, several km of ski trails in the winter.
 3) Saskatoon, holiday park in the winter for skiing – it's amazing to see deer and feel far from the city so close to home – and swimming at Beaver Creek Boat Launch in the summer. There's nothing like swimming in a lake or a river to make you feel alive.

Favourite Book of All-Time?
Book You're Reading Right Now?
Favourite Book To Read To Your Son?
I'm nearly done, have to go at 4:30, so i'll end w a fun one. 
1) I read Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger every year or two. The writing is whipsmart and funny and the story quite profound. 
2) I just bought A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, but am only a few pages in. He's also very clever and a captivating writer. I spend a lot more of my time reading (and writing) policy these days, but fiction is a huge part of how I learn about the world and enjoy it too 
3) Abe's 15 months now. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb - he loves this one, especially where it says "hand picks an apple, hand picks a plum" and he picks the apple of the page and pretends to feed it to me. We both find this hilarious.